Former Governor Jerry Brown seems to be taking a calculated risk. That his fame is great enough to overcome being significantly outspent by his rival in the Democratic primary for attorney general, L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. In the last reporting period, Brown was outspent six to one. The gamble looks set to pay off, as the Oakland mayor entered the stretch drive of the campaign with a huge 60% to 27% lead in the new L.A. Times poll.
Delgadillo reports spending $2.7 million on TV advertising; Brown a little less than $400,000 on cable. Yet the two-time runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination has the commanding lead and $4.4 million cash on hand in the latest report.
“I’m frugal,” Brown said of his approach earlier in the month. Republicans seem disappointed. “We had hoped he would be forced to spend most of his money in the primary,” says one Republican strategist who worries that the party’s presumptive nominee, Central Valley state Senator Chuck Poochigian, is off to a slow start.
Poochigian has raised money. He had over $3.2 million as of May 20th, and has added another $100,000 since then.
The veteran senator is an articulate and impressive legislator who authored workers compensation reform legislation for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also has good campaign help, in former Ronald Reagan advisor Ken Khachigian and consultant Kevin Spillane. He is known by less than 10 percent of the voters, according to polls, and currently trails Brown two to one (his larger support level due to his identification as the Republican candidate). Yet he has a chance against Brown, who is famed for his opposition to the death penalty (which Brown pledges to enforce), and whose mercurial career provides many colorful quotes.
But aside from a little burst of publicity here and there — as on the controversy surrounding the Rob Reiner-led California Children and Families Commission — Poochigian hasn’t done much yet to try to penetrate the public consciousness.
Delgadillo certainly has. His campaign has been one of the most aggressive in a new and not especially welcome phenomenon: The relentlessly barbed e-mail press release. Delgadillo’s campaign ranks with the constantly bickering campaigns of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Phil Angelides and Steve Westly in that department.
Delgadillo did well in gaining what seemed at first a surprising number of endorsements, such as the California Teachers Association and a host of labor groups, including an endorsement from the California Labor Federation, which also endorsed Brown. But having been a political lightning rod since the 1970s, Jerry Brown also has plenty of enemies. As Oakland’s mayor and a champion of charter schools, he ran afoul of the teacher’s union and some other public employee groups. And Delgadillo is an impressive younger politician who, even in defeat, would remain one of L.A.’s top elected officials and one of the most prominent Latino politicians in California.
In the end, however, Brown scored key endorsements, including the three largest newspapers in Delgadillo’s home base of Los Angeles.
Delgadillo has been aggressive in going after his opponent for the recent rise in Oakland’s murder rate on Brown’s watch. While most violent crimes are down during Brown’s tenure, it’s been embarrassing for the mayor to see the bodies piling up this year while he’s been running for state attorney general.
Other Delgadillo plays, such as attempting to paint Brown as anti-choice on abortion because of a musing comment in the 1980s and the former governor’s urging clemency for an imprisoned anti-abortion protester at the request of Mother Teresa, were less successful. And Delgadillo had his own problems, the latest being a Los Angeles Times story on inflated athletic claims.
Brown has campaigned around the state and he and Delgadillo tangled in four debates, the last of them at the California Democratic Party convention in late April (real time blogged here). Since then, aside from a little sparring in the media, Brown has pulled it down, focusing on his job as mayor of the gritty city on the other side of the Bay, letting the two little-known statewide officials who seek to follow him as governor dominate the scene for now by blasting away at each other in their primary battle.
Beginning in 1950, when Brown’s late father, then San Francisco District Attorney Pat Brown, won the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, members of the Brown family — Pat, Jerry, and sister Kathleen — have won 13 California Democratic primaries. Putting very little money down, Brown is making a large bet that another one is on the way.